Laura's junior year, she and Carmilla get an apartment together, filled with furniture bought at garage sales and secondhand stores. Carmilla makes her hot chocolate every night as she does her homework on their couch, and Laura buys cookies every week. When Laura declares as a journalism major, Carmilla invites their friends over and they eat brownies and tell stories all night. It is the last time they are all together. Laf got a job in a different city, and Perry is going with them. Danny's applying to grad school. They all pretend that this is not the end of something. They deny time and change a foothold in their lives and cling to life in a memory.
Laura has a job offer before she even graduates, and when she asks Carmilla to come with her, Carmilla finds them an apartment in the city. They buy new furniture together, build a home for themselves out of hopes and happiness, where change and time cannot reach them. Each morning Laura kisses Carmilla goodbye and walks to work. Carmilla gets a job in a coffee shop, works only when Laura does, and is home in time to make dinner together. On her days off, Carmilla brings Laura hot chocolate, takes her to lunch. They take weeks off together – Carmilla shows Laura her birthplace, her childhood home, she tells Laura true histories when they travel -- the books get so many things wrong. They look at the stars from rooftops, from deserts, when the sky is so clear and dark they can see every light like a diamond. Laughing, Laura reminds her of the first time they talked about looking at the stars. Carmilla looks at Laura's shining eyes and says, “All I ever needed to see was you.”
There comes a day when Carmilla is mistaken for Laura's younger sister. Time is grasping at them, testing their happiness, their trust. They push it aside, they laugh, but eventually they cannot deny time his place in their life. Laura becomes a travel journalist and every day is a vacation, every night an open door. Carmilla will not let Laura tell her to leave. “I am too old,” Laura says. “And I'm just getting older.” Carmilla kisses Laura's palm and says, “Then let's not waste what we have.”
Their life is a play, and all the world's their stage – they act their parts well. Years of practice have ingrained their double lives into them. Laura can feel their secret flowing through their clasped hands, long after they stop kissing in public. Carmilla is taken as Laura's daughter and they stop trying to fight it. Time has moved in, has settled into Laura's skin and hair, but he cannot touch her smile. She still outshines every star in the sky. Change flickers on every birthday candle, each year feeling shorter than the last. They paint it over with their laughter and love. That is still beyond the reach of time and change. Carmilla watches Laura sleep, read, holds her hand, kisses her cheek and denies time a place in her heart. Every moment is worth it.
The first time someone calls Carmilla Laura's granddaughter, they laugh and correct him – no, she's my daughter. Pain hides under every syllable. They wear the lie easily, but its barbs have not dulled. It happens again, and when Laura celebrates her sixtieth birthday, they start looking for a place to move. A new city, a new life, the same old play, just with slightly different parts. Laura finds a new job, and they buy a house in the suburbs, big enough for the family they never talked about having. Both of them knew the outcome. Neither could make themself say it.
Laura does not get old quickly. She is active, healthy, she stays young for years, but eventually she does. It is a fact of life. Carmilla still makes her hot chocolate, buys cookies and cupcakes. She pretends to herself that nothing is changing. She imagines they are still in college, a dream made to be shattered. Laura gets a new hip, and Carmilla is there before she goes into surgery and is holding her hand when she wakes up. The hitch in her step never goes away. It is hard for her to walk anymore, and every cold makes her weaker, steals a little more of her precious life. Carmilla watches in desperation, kisses her like she can impart her own immortality into Laura's frail human body. There is nothing she can do, seventy years is not enough, eighty years is not enough, an eternity would not be enough time with her. They are complements, Carmilla a living death, Laura a dying life.
Laura is buried with her bat wing bracelet tied around her wrist. Even in death, Carmilla is there to protect her. People comment - what a dedicated granddaughter - and Carmilla can't tell them that this is not familial responsibility, this is the culmination of decades of devotion. Love has led her here. She cleans their house, sells their furniture. It is mechanical. She could not survive the memories and she has forever left to live. The house is sold to a young couple, a toddler clinging to their leg, a baby cradled in their arms. Carmilla lets life into the house. She cannot honor Laura in a silent museum.
The gravestone is pure white, the letters pitch black. come with me, loving me, through death and after. Carmilla cannot make herself leave. She sits by Laura's grave for a year; she does not sleep, does not eat, she is not even sure she's breathing. She does not need any of those. She will live forever, a black hole, and Laura was a star, so bright even Carmilla couldn't stifle her.
When spring comes again, Carmilla picks herself up, dusts herself off. She puts the memory of Laura in a box, puts the box on a shelf in her heart next to one labeled Elle. They are both locked tight and she will not throw away the keys. A hundred years later, she meets another girl, another star as bright as the first two. Carmilla wipes the dust off the shelf beside the memories of Elle, of Laura, and prepares to put another box beside them.